My first singing (and guitar) recital

This past Saturday, I sang and accompanied myself on the guitar, my first time singing in front of a crowd of about 20 people.  I played my arrangement of one of my favorite songs: No Regrets by Mike Love.

Leading up to the actual performance, so many nerves and anxiety ran through my body. What if I mess up? What if I forget the lyrics? Minutes before I took the stage, my brain started playing tricks on me, suddenly unable to recall the lyrics to the chorus, despite me practicing this song probably over 100 times (bless my wife for listening to all these hours of practice). But because I’m familiar with my brain playing tricks on me — it does the same thing when I publicly speak — I simply drew in a couple deep breathes and put those thoughts to rest, trusting myself.

All in all, I feel proud. The performance went well and my wife recorded my recital and you can watch it here:

Why I picked up the guitar

Although I’ve been playing the ukulele for over a year, I decided to pick up the guitar four months ago, when I returned to Seattle after spending the Christmas holidays in sunny southern California.

During my visit, my little 13 year old brother and I would occasionally jam. Me on my tenor ukulele strung with a low G, him on his electric guitar (and occasional grand piano).  We’d take turns playing rhythm, a steady tempo of 80 beats per minute.  I would start with strumming a simple I, IV, V progression (i.e. C, F, G), him soloing in the key of C. Then we would swapped roles, him shredding his guitar, me applying my (little) music theory, picking and plucking away, one note at a time.

One day, while driving in the car by myself from Orange County to Northridge to my mother’s house, I was playing Spotify on my iPhone, music blaring through my Black Mazda hatchback’s speakers, acoustic and indie songs playing, one after another.  Spotify was playing songs listed in my “discover weekly”, a playlist algorithmically Spotify created based off of my listening behavior (i.e. listening to a handful of 80s music and acoustic guitar, over and over and over again).  Anyways, I’m driving up the 405 freeway, two hands on either side of the steering wheel, passively listening to the music in the background. And then, my attention shifts to the song playing, which was about already two minutes in, a song titled “When you love someone — James TW”.  At first, my ears perked up at the beautiful sound of the acoustic guitar, a combination of picking and strumming with an upbeat tempo.  In addition to the guitar, the melody was catchy, although I couldn’t really make out the lyrics.

With two eyes glued to the road, I hover my right hand over to the center console, grabbing my phone and swiping the phone unblock, tapping on the back, restarting the song to the beginning. And then I intently listened to the song, as I continued to drive up the highway.

The second time around, the song hit me emotionally, forcing tears to my eyes. Unexpectedly, the song’s lyrics revolve around a young boy whose parents are divorcing. “It don’t make sense. It don’t add up. We’ll love you. No matter what. ” – for some reason, those words shredded me apart. To be honest, I had not cried that hard in a long time (last time, if I can recall correctly, was during the episode of “This is us”, the episode where, spoiler alert, Randall’s father laid in the hospital bed, passing away and dropping words on wisdom before his consciousness faded).

Anyways, after listening to that beautiful song play about three or four times, I decided that I wanted to learn the guitar and not only play that song, but accompany myself (i.e. sing).

And for the past four months, that’s what I’ve been doing. Learning that song on the guitar, and only that song, one bar at a time.


Practicing my ukulele

Over the past month, I’ve been investing more time in learning the ukulele, sitting in the office area in the morning, strumming and picking my soprano ukulele for at least 30 minutes either in the early mornings or just before hitting the sack.  In addition to my daily routine, I’ve not only been taking weekly, 1 on 1 lessons from a local instructor in Seattle but I’m also reading books (favorite one so far was a short, 40-page book on music theory) and watching videos, playing along with the instructors from The Ukulele Underground.  I find this website very impressive not only for the content itself, but how well organized it is, breaking down the website into different levels: beginner and intermediate and advanced.  The organization of the website allows me to find exactly what I’m looking for. And when I cannot find the content I’m looking for, their staff is very responsive, replying to my messages.

In addition to my practice routine, where I drill scrumming patterns and drill my understanding of music theory, I make sure to carve out time (even if it’s just a few minutes) to just enjoy the instrument, playing songs that I like.  Isn’t that the whole point—enjoying the beauty of music?

Speaking of songs that I like, here’s a video of me practicing the introduction to the song Stand by me. If you watch the entire 20 second video, you’ll be blessed with the special cameo appearance.